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How healthy are your parents?
Last updated: Friday, August 15, 2014

As we age, one of the most difficult issues to deal with is the face that after years of being strong and independent, we start to become dependent again, in little ways.

One of the manifestations of the distress this causes is the fact that many elderly people simply won't speak up when they need help. And that means we, their children, need to be watchful.

Problem is, we often don't know what to look out for. How can you tell how healthy your parents are, which diseases they're prone to, and which symptoms you should be looking out for? And how do you cope if they're actually living with you?

“Having your parents living with you is not easy at the best of times, especially if your relationship was somewhat stressed to begin with,” says Dr Ilse Pauw, a South African psychologist. “There are many control issues that can surface, and health (and symptoms of ill health) are often areas of great contention.

"Many elderly people experience recommendations of lifestyle changes from their children as interference, and can get quite resentful. These recommendations are best left to the professionals.

“It must also be remembered that lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking or drinking, starting to take regular exercise, cutting out certain foodstuffs and remembering to take medication are never easy to achieve, and the older you get, the more effort it could take to achieve these lifestyle changes. Don't get impatient with them,” she says.

“There are other problems involved, such as minimising the seriousness of symptoms the elderly may be experiencing, and reluctance to consult a GP regularly. This is often as a result of fear of hospitalisation or institutionalisation or a very real fear that the chest pain may be something more serious than muscle strain.”

So which diseases are your elderly parents most likely to suffer from and what are their symptoms?

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